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Chinese Women's Gymnastics Team Underage? China Report Says Yes

Written by:
Alistair Prescott
Published on:
Aug/14/2008
He Kexin

Much of the controversy surrounding this summer's Olympics - outside of the Spain basketball team eye-slant photo - has been all about the China women's gymnastics team and their ages. Gymnasts have to be 16 during the Olympic year to be eligible for the games.

Just nine months before the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government's news agency, Xinhua, reported that gymnast He Kexin was 13, which would have made her ineligible to be on the team that won a gold medal this week.

Complaints have mounted since body type and age are believed to provide a significant advantage when it comes to gymnastics events.

Sanja Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN, told that news network's Campbell Brown, that there are tests to determine whether the Chinese gymnasts are the ages that are claimed.

"They won't give a specific birth date but can show be accurate to show within a few month's of that person's age," he stated.

But whether Olympics officials would be willing to administer such a test remains questionable.

In its report Nov. 3, Xinhua identified He as one of "10 big new stars" who made a splash at China's Cities Games. It gave her age as 13 and reported that she beat Yang Yilin on the uneven bars at those games. In the final, "this little girl" pulled off a difficult release move on the bars known as the Li Na, named for another Chinese gymnast, Xinhua said in the report, which appeared on one of its Web sites, http://www.hb.xinhuanet.com.

The Associated Press found the Xinhua report on the site Thursday morning and saved a copy of the page. Later that afternoon, the Web site was still working but the page was no longer accessible. Sports editors at the state-run news agency would not comment for publication.

If the age reported by Xinhua was correct, that would have meant He was too young to be on the Chinese team that beat the United States on Wednesday and clinched China's first women's team Olympic gold in gymnastics. He is also a favorite for gold in Monday's uneven bars final.

Yang was also on Wednesday's winning team. Questions have also been raised about her age and that of a third team member, Jiang Yuyuan.

In an AOL readers poll, 97 percent of the 74,000 plus respondents believed that He Kexin was 15 years or younger.

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